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‘Right tool, right task’

The right tool is on this workbench.

A great grandfather’s workbench continues to serve the next generations of the Heisler family. Today, “Papa” provides starter sets and lessons in what tool is right to do the job.

Director of Connectional Ministry

Workbench with tool after tool
~ photo courtesy Benton Heisler

Benton HeislerThe workbench in my garage was my great grandfather’s. The barn was constructed in 1865, likely the workbench was made about the same time. It is cracked, oil stained, and the height is too short to be comfortable for me to work on it. The 22” wide board across the front is perforated with multiple size drill bit holes. (The story my grandfather told me, left some children unnamed, but reported they had “tested” their father’s auger bits one day when he had gone to town and had left them home to their own devices.) I never met Great Grandpa Shively, but I knew his daughter, her husband and their son, my dad. Lessons I learned while visiting that farm, fixing stuff on that bench and hearing stories of faith, family and friends formed my early spiritual life and an appreciation for “leaving the world better than you found it.”

I still have my Great Grandpa’s hand crank drill, auger bits and their wooden storage case along with other items from that early agricultural era. The 6’ long two-person crosscut saw we sharpened on that bench now hangs on the garage wall. (Memories of using that saw one fall day in the woods with my father and grandfather are treasured recollections.) My tools of choice now are Dewalt, Craftsman, and Stihl. Same tasks —  building, repairing, creating firewood — but new skills are necessary, and new knowledge of all the component parts is essential.

Each time I use one of those old tools, memories return, and I am reminded of my small place in a much longer legacy of adventure, hope, faith and family. I now have two grandsons (ages four and five months) and a third one is scheduled to arrive in November. The oldest one and “Papa” (me) love to spend time in my workshop. “What’s this Papa?” “What does this do Papa?” Gradually he is learning that not every problem can be solved with a bigger hammer and that some skills and tools take time to practice and learn the most productive technique.

I have been visiting garage and estate sales the past couple of summers. My goal is to create a “starter set” of tools for each grandchild (male and female alike, if that turns out to be the case) and show them how to use them safely. I did the same for our daughters and then provided that starter set as they headed off to college. It brings a smile to me face to see them still using items from their starter set.

You may have your own basic “go to” tools. My most frequently used items include: a hammer, side cutters, channel lock pliers, vise grips, various screwdrivers, a utility knife, a crescent wrench, a small hand saw, a set of sockets, and some end wrenches. Most any project can be handled in an emergency with these, thus a small bag with those items is in each of my cars.

I always emphasized to my daughters and now my oldest grandson, “right tool, right task.” They are amazed when something they were struggling with suddenly becomes easier, when the right tool and technique are in place.

People are a lot different than products, but there are still the right tools. The fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) are the “tools of choice” for dealing with others. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, these are the relationship “tools” you want to always have ready. I struggle with why in one of the most advanced countries of the world we seem to think that everyone needs to have the “tools of war” in their personal possession. Just because it might be “recreational fun,” I am not allowed to own a rocket launcher, or a fully weaponized tank. If I take to the woods or fields to hunt, I am limited in the amount of ammunition in my weapon’s magazine. If you can’t hit what you are aiming at with five shots, you need to get closer, practice more or get out of the woods!

The military and police departments have the unfortunate task of sometimes needing to choose between the life of a few for the sake of the life of many. They train for it, they agonize over it and they use that choice with a remarkable amount of composure and restraint. The general public, in my mind, has no need for tactical level weapons intended for the military and police. The fact that our congress and state legislators cannot manage to arrive at this same level of understanding simply baffles me.

My father-in-law served in the Navy and then served over 25 years in the Michigan State Police. He supported the NRA, and I am inclined to think he mostly voted Republican. But I heard him say time and time again that, “Military grade weapons have no compelling reason to be available to the general public.” I believe he was right.

The prophet Isaiah is recorded as saying, …and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war, anymore. (2:4)

I will need to teach my grandchildren the importance of the safe use of the tools in their tool bags and help them understand what is the “right tool, for the right task.” But I can tell you, there will be no AR-15 with a 100-round magazine as a tool for them to choose.


~“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible) Each article I write for this column, Home Words Bound, is based in the guidance of a Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

Last Updated on September 20, 2022

The Michigan Conference